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A fabulous disc which contains few of the usual suspects but concentrates on troubled background characters – demonstrating Handel’s impartial sympathy as they step into the light to speak. Even the most ardent Handelophile will find surprises here. The French alto Nathalie Stutzmann, with a voice like some sort of honey liqueur, directs her own band, Orfeo 55. The result is marvellous: a thoroughly integrated performance in a programme that is varied enough despite an unsurprising emphasis on wounded hearts. This suits the melancholy colouring of her voice, which is at its best in Dardano’s ‘Pena tiranna’ (Amadigi), with plaintive oboe and bassoon holding the singer’s hand, Ottone’s brilliantly layered ‘Voi che udite’ (Agrippina), Irene’s lilting ‘Par che mi nasca’ (Tamerlano) and the beautiful, theorbo-accompanied, serenade-like ‘Senti, bell’idol mio’ from Silla. The more forthright numbers are pretty convincing too, with some fabulous rushing strings in a rage aria from Alessandro and a great little pizzicato sinfonia from Scipio. There’s even a duet (‘Son nata a lagrimar’) with Philippe Jaroussky.

Robert Thicknesse Read the full review on Agora Classica

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